Blog Entry

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

Posted on: January 10, 2012 10:43 am
Edited on: January 10, 2012 2:25 pm
 

By Brian Stubits

On Monday night, the NHL season went over the hump and the second half officially began.

The league has been a Wild ride through only half a season as the Maple Leafs fell from the trees and onto your lawn. Stars have been dropping all over the place, too. Some teams have been singing the Blues as they’ve gone down in Flames while others have been surprising high Flyers as if they were in Jets. You'd almost think they made deals with the Devils or something.

OK, enough with the ambiguous team-name puns, time to get our Ducks in a row here.

In the first half of the season alone the NHL has seen seven head coaches fired, plenty of surprises, has memorized the introduction to a Brandon Shanahan video and had a memorable Winter Classic (we can thank NBC for that, right Torts?).

Now comes the fun part where everybody and their brother has their own candidate for each award, but here are the Eye on Hockey midseason awards as handed out by myself, Brian Stubits and my colleague Adam Gretz.

See that commentary space at the bottom? That's for your write-in candidates. Don't be shy (as if you needed the encouragement).

Hart (Given to the Most Valuable Player)

Stubits: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux has had absolutely no problem filling the scoring void left by Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in Philadelphia. His 48 points are 11 better than the next highest on his team (Scott Hartnell) despite missing four games with a concussion and he has the Flyers in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference.

Gretz: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

I know the history. I know that goaltenders don't generally win this award, and that you can probably count on one hand the number of times it's happened, at least over the past 30-40 years. But we're talking about MVP's of the first half of the season, and I'm not sure where the Rangers would be without him at this point. He faces a heavy workload and he's their best player every night.

Vezina (Given to the most outstanding goalie)

Stubits: Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings

I had a tough time here with him and Henrik Lundqvist. Considering Quick has carried more of his team's load and has twice as many shutouts clinches it for me. As for Tim Thomas? Hard when Tuukka Rask's numbers are even better. Brian Elliott has been splitting too much. Jimmy Howard another close call. Hard to make a bad pick for Vezina this year.

Gretz: Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers

The last four goalies to win the MVP (Jose Theodore, Dominik Hasek -- twice -- Jacques Plante) also won the Vezina Trophy that same season, so if I have Lundqvist as my mid-season MVP, it only seems fair to give him the Vezina as well. Boston's Tuukka Rask has better numbers at this point, but he's also only appeared in 14 games.

Norris (Given to the top defenseman)

Stubits: Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

Offensively speaking, he's one of the best you'll find in hockey. Defensively speaking, he's one of the best you'll find in hockey. What else could you want in a defenseman? Zdeno Chara comes in a close second for me with Brian Campbell a surprising third.

Gretz: Shea Weber, Nashville Predators

He's one of the leading scorers among defensemen in the NHL and one of the guys Nashville leans on to play heavy minutes (among the toughest in the league), which makes his ability to put up points even more impressive.

Calder (Given to the top rookie)

Stubits: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Edmonton Oilers

As of now, that's not a terribly tough call, I don't think. Nugent-Hopkins has been great for the Oilers this season, particularly on the power play. He's on pace for around 75 points if he were to play 82 games (which he won't). It will get more interesting as the season wears on and Nugent-Hopkins remains sidelined. Watch for Adam Henrique in New Jersey.

Gretz: Adam Henrique, New Jersey Devils

Offensively, his numbers are nearly identical to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in Edmonton with seemingly far less fanfare. I give the edge to Henrique because he's played in tougher situations and is a regular on New Jersey's penalty kill, which happens to be the best in the NHL. He's tied for the league lead (among all players, not just rookies) in shorthanded points.

Jack Adams (Given to the best coach)

Stubits: Ken Hitchcock, St. Louis Blues

How can your choice be anybody else? The Blues were 6-7-0 before he was hired, 18-5-5 since. St. Louis has allowed the third-fewest goals in the NHL behind the Rangers and Bruins. Paul MacLean is my second choice. Kevin Dineen and Mike Yeo slipped with sluggish Decembers.

Gretz: Paul MacLean, Ottawa Senators

Nobody had any preseason expectations for the Ottawa Senators other than that they would be competing for the No. 1 overall pick. Did anybody have them competing for a playoff spot at the halfway point? Or at any point? He also wins the Lanny MacDonald award for best mustache in the NHL.

Selke (Given to the best defensive forward)

Stubits: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

There are some great choices, but you can't go wrong with Bergeron. The Bruins defense is outstanding and he's part of that. Guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Jonathan Toews have arguments here too but the best defense should be rewarded in some fashion.

Gretz: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Bergeron has been climbing up the Selke voting in recent years, slowly but surely, and he's the best defensive player on one of the best defensive team in the league. Even though he plays some of the toughest minutes on the team, he's only been on the ice for 10 goals against at even strength. He kills penalties, wins faceoffs ... he does it all. One of the best two-way players in the league.

Best surprise

Stubits: Florida Panthers

The Panthers have been in first place of the Southeast Division for almost two months running. Let those words soak in. Sure, the division hasn't been very good as a whole, but this team was ripped pretty mercilessly for the offseason overhaul and here they are. Other good choices: Jets, Senators, Wild.

Gretz: Ottawa Senators

For the same reasons I have Paul MacLean as mid-season coach of the year. Nobody expected anything from the Senators this season other than for them to be terrible.

Biggest disappointment

Stubits: Buffalo Sabres

They aren't the worst of the candidates -- Ducks, Blue Jackets, Canadiens, Lightning -- but they had some very high expectations and have been incredibly pedestrian. They just aren't scoring much, their 107 goals the second fewest in the East. Very big things were expected of them, a point-per-game pace doesn't fit the bill.

Gretz: Columbus Blue Jackets

Well, this seems easy. Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski were supposed to be difference makers at two spots they needed the most help at, and while I didn't think they would be any sort of contender, I at least thought they would have a shot at the playoffs. At the halfway point, they're the worst team in the league.

Best offseason acquisition

Stubits: Brian Elliott, St. Louis Blues

It was very close for me between him and another Brian, Campbell down in Florida. But Elliott, an afterthought on the goalie market this offseason, has been sensational in St. Louis, even before Hitchcock came aboard. He'd be my favorite for the Vezina if he weren't splitting so much with Jaroslav Halak.

Gretz: Ian White, Detroit Red Wings

There were questions as to how the Red Wings would replace Brian Rafalski on the blue line, and Ian White at an average annual salary of $2.75 million over two years has been a bargain for the production and quality of play he's provided.

Worst offseason acquisition

Stubits: Tomas Kaberle, Carolina Hurricanes

To be honest, I was looking for somebody other than Ville Leino, who is likely the runaway choice for this. But Kaberle was almost as bad, the only difference was that his contract isn't the long-term commitment that Leino's is. That didn't stop 'Canes GM Jim Rutherford from fixing his mistake before the All-Star break by trading Kaberle to Montreal. Under the radar pick: Re-signing Dwayne Roloson in Tampa Bay.

Gretz: Ville Leino, Buffao Sabres

This seemed like a dubious signing from the start. Buffalo gave Ville Leino six-years and $27 million based on one full season of production in the NHL. In 30 games this season he has 10 points.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Comments

Since: Sep 25, 2006
Posted on: January 18, 2012 8:46 pm
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

Henrik Sedin is one hell of a player and deserves mention, but Giroux has been just as good and shows the NHL every night how hard he works, he reminds of Marty St. Louis in a lot of respects, but has a better knack for scoring. Giroux belongs on that list.



Since: Jul 19, 2007
Posted on: January 17, 2012 3:16 pm
 

Uhh.... wrong Henrik perhaps?

I've read a few sites' trophy predictions now and none of them mentions Henrik Sedin as a Hart candidate.

Call me crazy but if I was voting I'd tend to go with the guy on one of the top 2 or 3 teams leading the NHL in points.  Oh, and by the way, if you haven't seen this guy play (which is entirely likely considering the state of American hockey television coverage and Canucks being on the West Coast), he is sensational.... an absolute Houdini with the puck.

Why the need to pump up a young gun on a middling team in the weak Eastern conference (Giroux)?  His time will come soon enough.
And Lundqvist... c'mon... he's not even the best goalie much less the MVP of the league!

BTW, it does not go unnoticed that your 2 hart candidates appeared on HBO 24/7 this year.... perhaps the only hockey you've watched all season?



Since: Feb 18, 2011
Posted on: January 15, 2012 5:31 pm
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

I aint gonna lie but this Sens team has shocked me...Its a new young team full of talent. Lots of chemistry...GO SENS GO




Since: Nov 26, 2011
Posted on: January 14, 2012 7:54 pm
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

Is that a chicken or the egg situation? Well Derek Jeter did win the 2009 and 2010 gold gloves at shortstop so he must have been the best at his position too!



Since: Oct 4, 2006
Posted on: January 14, 2012 4:17 pm
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

So Phil-e-Phan in your opinion, who should have won the Norris trophy last year and why.
The guy who won it. Tim Thomas being better than either of the Red Wings goalies and setting goaltending records does not make Zdeno Chara better than Nicklas Lidstrom.



Since: Nov 26, 2011
Posted on: January 14, 2012 1:26 pm
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

It is certainly a stat that has some merit for line play. I understand that some goals are scored on the goalie, some on a bad turnover or execution by one D or the pairing, poor backchecking or defensive zone coverage by the forwards, or simply a great effort by the other team.  Keeping a long term running stat will produce a trend. The forwards are not always out with the same defensive pairings so a trend will develop over an extended stretch regarding a line's defensive prowess. Teams always breakdown how every goal against is scored and affix proper responsibility. I am talking about comparing players who are on at least marginally defensively competent teams. Obviously John Tavares might have a few less points with the Bruins say, but he would likely sport a far better +/- and Zack Parise is a lot better than a -2. But I will take a line with each player's +/- over + 25 at mid-season and you can make a line up of Kovalchuk types and let's see  who is calling for tee times first in the Spring.



Since: Jan 14, 2007
Posted on: January 14, 2012 12:18 pm
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

Here's hoping Jonathan Toews gets consideration for the Hart Trophy......solid all around leader with goal scoring ability and toughness.



Since: Jul 1, 2010
Posted on: January 14, 2012 11:04 am
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

+/- is a useless stat except for some limited occasions comparing bottom 4 d-men and 4-13 forwards on the same team only.   Otherwise the only time it should be used is when it makes a subjective and convenient stat to use if it falls in line with your opinion in an argument.  



Since: Nov 26, 2011
Posted on: January 14, 2012 4:17 am
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

So Phil-e-Phan in your opinion, who should have won the Norris trophy last year and why.



Since: Nov 26, 2011
Posted on: January 14, 2012 3:30 am
 

Midseason Awards: Breaking up the Hart

Pil-e-Phan, I can’t imagine why you would think that +/- is a meaningless stat. Please tell us all how a Hart candidate can be on the ice for only three more goals during five on five play than have been scored against him, while playing on a top NHL team.  Are you trying to say that his linemates are weak, the defense porous, and the goalie a sieve? Or does he have to be introduced to his goalie after every game? If you are saying it is meaningless how many goals a line gives up during even strength situations, do you intend to measure players by height or the color of their uniform? I mean since you are obviously really, really smart.

ps. I clearly stated Seguin is not nor should be considered for any post-season awards, however Bergeron should and is being considered. Any coach worth his salt would prefer that their players on the ice score many more goals than they give up.




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